Archive for Volgograd
2011 has again been a good year for me to discover wonderful new places in the world. Rather than bore you with a very brief and inadequate description, I thought I’d rely on the old saying of “a picture paints a thousand words” or rather in this case a photo. Here are my favourite photos I took during the last year.
My first trip of the year was to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. I’ve been there many times and decided to head up the coast to Helsingor and the famous Kronborg Castle. It is said to be the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet”.
I spent a couple of days on the Montenegro coast at Sveti Stefan overlooking this iconic iselt.
My first diving trip to Manado was extremely rewarding. On a night dive I managed to capture a couple of pictures of the elusive Mandarin Fish on a night dive.
Queens Colours 1/24th Regiment
The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 was the greatest defeat a British force ever suffered at the hands of a native army. On that fateful January day, the Queens Colours of 1/24th Regiment were lost in the Buffalo River. Two weeks later, against all odds they were recovered. Queen Victoria added a wreath of immortals around the crown as reminder of what happened to those colours at Isandlwana. Today, they are hanging in the Havard side chapel in Brecon Cathedral, Wales.
Burning Bush / Fire Extinguisher
High in the Sinai Mountains in St Catherine’s Monastery. It is a hugely significant religious site and this picture is of the Burning Bush. I found it slightly amusing that there is a fire extinguisher next to it…just in case.
Soldier on guard, Hall of Valour
The Battle of Stalingrad was an horrendous fight to the death for hundreds of thousands of Russian and German soldiers. Today at the Hall of Valour at Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, there is a permanent guard.
Petra through the Siq
The Siq at Petra is a long passage all visitors have to travel through to reach the famous Red City. As you approach the end, you get your first glimpse of the Treasury in Petra.
Kotor – cruise ship
The old walled town of Kotor in Montenegro is a popular cruise destination.
This photo isn’t so much a favourite, I just want to highlight a problem (excuse the blurriness). When threatened, Pufferfish expand their bodies. Its a rare sight and is incredibly stressful for them. On this night dive in Aqaba, the guide annoyed this Pufferfish enough for it to puff out it’s body. I was really annoyed that someone meant to educate and protect the marine environment could do this. It was at a 5* PADI centre in a marine park.
If you want to visit a fantastic spa resort in a stunning setting, the Ma’In Hotsprings 260m below sea level in Jordan will not disappoint.
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Thats all from me for 2011, now I’m looking forward to 2012 which will take me to more new places and the Euro 2012 Championships in Ukraine.
On the banks of the River Volga in Southern Russia is the city of Volgograd. During World War II, the area was the scene of some terrible fighting between the Soviet Red Army and the German Army Group South. Much of the city was destroyed and has since been rebuilt. Throughout, visitors will find many interesting places that tell the story of the city that was originally called Tsaritsyn by the Tatars, renamed Stalingrad by the Communists and is today known as Volgograd.
Mamayev Hill was the original site of the Tatar settlement Tsaritsyn. It is the highest point in the city with commanding views of the area. Today, there is a colossal statue of Mother Russia which can be seen from miles away. She stands on top of a mound which is a mass grave of 34,000 soldiers who died hear. There are 35 Heroes of the Soviet Union buried here including the legendary sniper Vasiliy Zaitsev along with the commander of the 64th Army and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshall Chuikov.
Like many cities around the world, the river is at the heart of it and Volgograd is no different. The River Volga winds its way from central Russia down to the Caspian Sea. At Volgograd it is a wide river carrying huge cargo ships. Along both banks are beautiful sandy beaches and during the summer, the water temperature can reach 25 Celcius which is on par with places like the Red Sea in Egypt in April. Every hour, short cruises depart sailing up and down the river and it allows a wonderful perspective of the city.
The Panoramic Museum is a fantastic place for anyone with even the slightest interest in the military history of Volgograd. It is located next to the Old Mill which is one of the few buildings that survived the battle. The damage to the Old Mill gives an idea what the devastation across the city. Inside the museum, there is a wealth of wonderful exhibits including the rifle used by Vasiliy Zaitsev. Plenty of time should be allowed to see everything the Panoramic Museum has to offer.
During the final days of the Battle of Stalingrad, the German Headquarters was in the basement of the Department Store. The store survives and a museum can be found hidden away in the basement. Among the items on display are portraits of the 5 Red Army soldiers who discovered the Germans and were asked to find a senior ranking office to accept their surrender. One of the men, Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade, is still alive and living in Volgograd.
Lyudnikov’s Island takes its name from the fact it was an area of the city under Soviet control that was isolated from the main force. The command post still survives although very badly damaged. Close by are a number of mass graves of fallen soldiers 138th Division who died here during the Battle of Stalingrad.
I decided to take a 3 day trip to the city of Volgograd in Southern Russia with the main aim of exploring the battlefields of the Second World War. From September 1942 to February 1943, the fighting was harsh and around 2 million men and women died. Much of the city was also destroyed with little more than 5% of the original buildings surviving. Today, more than 1 million people call Volgograd home.
If you arrive at the airport which was used as a German airstrip during the battle, the terminal building proudly states “Hero City Volgograd”. My guide met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. The journey took around 30 minutes. I stayed at the centrally located Best Eastern Hotel Volgograd which is typical of the Soviet era hotels that have been modernised yet still retain some features of the bygone era. The entrance and stairways were beautifully ornate given the impression of a far better hotel than the 3* grade it has. However, the room was a bit more basic. The bathroom was reasonably modern and there was air conditioning which was very welcoming but the bed couldn’t be described as comfortable and the TV only had a few Russian stations. There was a fridge but no safe for valuables. Breakfast was included but the choice was repetitive. One major plus was free wi-fi throughout the hotel. In a country when mobile phone roaming charges are so high, it was a welcome lifeline.
It quickly became apparent I would need to use my limited Russian a lot more in Volgograd. Almost all the signs are only in Cyrillic and few people speak English. That said, I did find menus in both Russian and English at one cafe. I found the use of an English speaking guide during my 3 days in Volgograd absolutely priceless. There was little in the way of tourist information available in any language, never mind English so if you plan an independent trip, make sure you have your information before you arrive.
There are memorials to be found right across the city. The observant visitor will notice monuments with T-34 tank turrets. There are 80 of these in total and they mark the furtherest point of the German advance before the Soviet counter attack began on 19th November 1942. It gives you an idea just how close the city came to falling. Of the various places of interest, two of the more popular are Mamayev Hill and the Panoramic Museum.
I also visited the small museum in the basement of the department store. Its hidden away and takes some finding. It was here that the German commander Friedrich Paulus was found by 5 Red Army soldiers, one of whom still lives in Volgograd today. Other places I visited in the city included Lyudnikov’s Island, the tractor factory where the last T-34 was produced and the Grain Elevator where so many men died.
During my 3 days here, I ventured more than 50 miles from the city to the point where the German Army was finally encircled trapping 330,000 men. It is at a point on the Don – Volga canal which Stalin built to link these two mighty rivers. The canal is huge, capable of transporting large cargo ships. I also visited some old German trenches, the only German cemetery at Rossoshka, Soldier Field and the church at Gorodische which the Germans used as a hospital.
I found some comparisons with the Western Front battlefields of France in that where ever you looked, there were memorials and graves to the fallen. The Volgograd region has it’s own ‘iron harvest’ of rifles, cartridge cases, helmets and the like from the fight and in excess of 1,000 soldiers remains are found each year. Unlike the Western Front, many of the memorials are not well signposted so for the independent traveller, would be difficult to find. However, the significance of what took place here 70 years ago and the efforts of soldiers like Vasiliy Zaitsev and Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade who found Field Marshall Paulus should never be underestimated.